Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week much ink was spilled discussing the word fascist. What is fascism, anyway? Is it fair to call Donald Trump a fascist? Does the word actually mean something or is it just an insult? If it does mean something, does it apply uniquely to Trump, or is there a larger fascist or proto-fascist problem in America?

When I started researching this, I worried that it might be a little too theoretical to blog about. But everybody I mentioned fascism to this week got intense. It’s like we ate something we can’t digest. We’re thinking about it, but we don’t know what to think.

Well, I’ve been thinking about it too. The result is a long article (which has a convenient stopping point in the middle, if you don’t feel like going all the way down the rabbit hole) I call “The Political F-Word”. It’s pretty much done, but this is the kind of article where a small misstatement can lead to a long comment thread that completely misses the point, so the final edit may take longer than usual. It should post sometime between 8 and 9 EST.

The weekly summary will pull together two recent examples of what appears to be right-wing terrorism: the Planned Parenthood attack in Colorado and the attack on Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Minnesota. Also, the murder of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago policeman, and what the 13-month cover-up says about a larger corruption issue that Mayor Emmanuel shows no interest in; possibly the last sub-400 ppm measurement of CO2; and I’ll have to look around for some good news to balance all that. Let’s predict that to appear sometime between 11 and noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

When the Paris attacks happened, I expected a push to re-invade Iraq and put boots on the ground in Syria. (That’s why I focused last week’s featured post on the fact that ISIS wants us to do that.) What I wasn’t expecting, and feel a little silly about not foreseeing, was the demonization of Syrian refugees and American Muslims. That wave of public hysteria has been building all week, sweeping up even my own Democratic governor and congresswoman, and causing Republicans to say some things that sound downright fascist. (Explaining what I mean by fascist and why I think it’s appropriate to start using that word is what I’ve got planned for next week.)

But tempting as it is to blame politicians for all this craziness, I really think the problem is us, the American people. Some of us have gotten swept away by cruel, xenophobic impulses, and many of the rest of us have either taken a well-maybe-you’re-right, maybe-just-a-touch-of-fascism attitude. Or we were intimidated into silence, or defended our position in a way that just mirrored the hysteria of the other side. (That’s not how you talk somebody down.) Sad to say, our political representatives have been doing a pretty good job of representing us.

So if you accept that this is the public’s problem, the next thing you realize is that we’re going to have to step up and fix this. The insanity is only going to slow down if ordinary people stand up for reasonability in our conversations, our social media, and elsewhere. The politicians won’t get saner until the public gets saner.

How to take up that challenge is the subject of this week’s featured post, “In times of hysteria”. It will be out a little bit later than usual, maybe around 10 EST. That’s going to run a little long, so the weekly summary will be correspondingly thin: a variety of odds and ends concluding in a great song-and dance video. (We need something like that about now.)

The Monday Morning Teaser

Friday night’s attacks in Paris made all my plans for today’s Sift obsolete. Naturally, a one-man blog can’t cover breaking news, so I’ll direct you elsewhere for that.

But there’s a larger issue of how the West should respond to terrorism launched by groups who claim to represent all of Islam. Getting the frame right is very important here. The neo-cons get this, so they always have the Munich frame handy: If we don’t stop ISIS now, they’ll just get stronger and be harder to stop later.

But a few thousand zealots in the desert between Syria and Iraq are not Germany in 1938. A handful of guys with AK-47s and grenades in Paris are not General Guderian’s panzer corps. Treating them as if they are might do more harm than good.

Realizing that the Munich frame doesn’t fit, though, doesn’t give us a better frame. I’ll take a shot at what the right frame is in this week’s featured post “A Mediation on Terrorism”. That should appear maybe 9ish EST.

In the weekly summary, I’ll recall some of my earlier (and longer) writings on terrorism. (Back in 2004, “Terrorist Strategy 101: a quiz” was one of my first blog posts to get a readership beyond my friends. On its ten-year anniversary, I updated it with “Terrorist Strategy 101: a review“.) I’ll also link to some other people whose views seem insightful.

But a weekly summary can’t be 100% grim, so I’ll also discuss the Starbucks red-cup controversy and make fun of some of the odder ideas in Tuesday’s Republican debate. By the time the Democratic debate rolled around on Saturday, I was already focused on Paris, so I’ll punt that to next week. There’s also the University of Missouri protests to talk about. And I’ll close by pointing out the one thing Starbucks could do to make the cup controversy even more contentious.

The Monday Morning Teaser

On Wednesday, Ben Carson took the lead over Donald Trump in the Real Clear Politics polling average (though Trump had regained a small lead by Saturday). Probably not coincidentally, Carson had two runs of bad publicity this week: One of them (the exaggerations in his autobiography) makes me shrug, while the other (Joseph built the pyramids) points out exactly why I think Carson is the scariest candidate in the race. I’ll talk through my thought process in this week’s featured post “I’d rather have Trump”. It just needs a proofreading, so it should be out soon.

The weekly summary will discuss the off-year elections, developments in the so-called “war on cops”, and another in the weekly series of guns-make-us-safer stories, before closing with a highly amusing (and very effective) video about sexual consent from a British police department.

I haven’t yet decided what to do with one of the week’s most interesting stories: a study showing that middle-aged whites who haven’t been to college are dying at a surprising rate, but only in the United States. It’ll either be a few paragraphs in the summary or spin out into a short article. Either way, the weekly summary will probably be late this week.

The Monday Morning Teaser

At 5 a.m. I realized that the hardest clock to reset is my body’s. Oh well, early start.

In this week’s featured post, I’ll try to explain why we say “Black lives matter” rather than “All lives matter” by making an analogy to one of Jesus’ most famous parables. I call it “Samaritan Lives Matter”, and I hope readers will use it to start conversations with their conservative Christian friends. It’s almost done, so it should be out before too long.

The weekly summary has a lot to cover. It looks like we’re going to have ground troops in Syria after all, which I’m not happy about. But on the positive side, we’ve got a budget-and-debt-ceiling deal that could end Congressional hostage-taking for the rest of the Obama presidency. The third Republican debate turned into a whine-fest about the “liberal” media and its “gotcha” questions. (Have they ever watched CNBC? It’s not liberal.) WHO’s announcement about processed meat causing cancer got sensationalized; I’ll try to put it in better perspective. There was another highly-publicized example of police violence against unarmed black people, this time against a girl sitting in a desk in a classroom. And a bunch of other stuff. Expect to see that before noon, or maybe 11 since I’m up already.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Again this week, it’s obvious what to write about: The Benghazi Committee’s attempt to break down Hillary Clinton in a marathon session of hostile questioning. The results were predictable, but somehow Chairman Trey Gowdy couldn’t stop himself or his committee from playing right into Clinton’s hands: The hearing turned into a free 11-hour commercial about how presidential she is. I’ll cover all that in the featured article, “Notes from Hillary’s Benghazi Showdown”. That should be out around 9 EDT.

That’s far from the only thing that happened this week: Joe Biden announced he’s not running, Canada went liberal, Paul Ryan announced his candidacy for Speaker, Obama vetoed a major defense bill, and a bunch of other stuff. That will be in the weekly summary, which I hope to get out around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The Democrats finally debated this week, and from my point of view it went well. The candidates as a group looked thoughtful and civil, and the debate highlighted the issues Democrats around the country want to run on, rather than focusing on who insulted who and whether that was over the line. Observations spinning out of the debate will take up most of the weekly summary — along with the continuing chaos in Congress, the Russians in Syria, the continuing good news about the deficit (which nobody seems to know), and a few other things, concluding with a cartoon illustrating the problems when Christmas starts in encroach on Halloween.

The featured post this week is a book review of Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works. The book makes at least two really important points: It explains why some beliefs are impervious to evidence, and observes that your propaganda doesn’t have to lie if your audience already believes something false.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s another week where it’s obvious what to cover: The chaos in the effort to replace John Boehner as speaker. Ever since Boehner announced his resignation, everyone I talk politics with has been asking me what’s going on (as if I know), and that only intensified after Kevin McCarthy’s surprise withdrawal from the race.

Naturally, I don’t have any inside information about what Paul Ryan is going to do or how quickly the speaker-selection process will play out, but after taking a step back and looking at the broader context, I think the story is being mis-covered in the mainstream media: For the Far Right, I don’t think the issue is who the Speaker will be, it’s whether they can get a commitment to back their next attempt to blackmail Obama with a government shutdown or debt-ceiling crisis.

“What the Speakership Battle is About” probably will post around 9 EDT.

In the weekly summary, there’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the continuing arguments about guns, anticipating tomorrow’s Democratic debate, and a few other things. I’m running a little late on that, so it probably won’t post before noon.


The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m back from my week off (which wasn’t really a week off; I gave a talk in the Midwest which I’ll link to in the weekly summary). A lot happened: the Pope came and went; Speaker Boehner announced his resignation; not coincidentally, the government shutdown got delayed until December, when it’s the new speaker’s problem; we had yet another mass shooting; two big corporate-greed stories broke: the VW diesel-emissions fraud, and the jacking-up-drug-prices story; the witch-hunt against Planned Parenthood continued; and Alabama made the boldest voter-suppression move yet.

Meanwhile, I have a promise to keep from two weeks ago: reviewing Bernie Sanders’ speech at Liberty University. So maybe I’ll get on with that and leave the rest to the weekly summary. So “Bernie’s Epistle to the Falwellites” should come out by 8 EDT, and the weekly summary around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I wanted to write about Bernie Sanders speaking at Liberty University — I really did — but I couldn’t stay away from the bright shiny object of the Republican debate. Watching it was one of those what-color-is-the-sky-on-your-planet experiences for me, a departure from reality that ordinary fact-checking just can’t cope with. So this week’s featured article is “Three Hours in Bizarro World”. It should be out around 8 EDT.

The weekly summary has a lot to cover: Ahmed Mohamed’s clock-that-wasn’t-a-bomb, of course; the escalating attacks on Black Lives Matter; Jade Helm 15 ending as the simple military exercise the Pentagon always said it was, without overthrowing democracy-as-we-know-it; a few notes on Bernie Sanders in lieu of a full analysis of his message to Evangelical Christians; and a bunch of other stuff, before closing with a harrowing escape from California wildfires. I still have a lot of paragraphs to finish and references to check, so let’s guess that appears around noon.

BTW, I won’t be sifting in the coming week. But if you happen to be in west central Illinois (or across the Mississippi in northeastern Missouri or southeastern Iowa) Sunday morning, you can hear me talk at the Unitarian Church of Quincy.


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